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which gave occasion to their public career. The characteristic eloquence of the country, may, to some extent, be thus explainedin the public transactions of the Irish administration, the perfunctory precision of a more advanced constitutional state did not yet exist to supersede private effort; the range of business was not so great as to prohibit the waste of wit and fancy, which adorned and relaxed the labour of public affairs. These qualifications were perhaps heightened by the intermixture of some slight tinges of the barbaric freedom of the hour; the social circle was not so enlarged and cultivated by refinement as to repress peculiarity. The conventional restrictions of modern taste did not exist to subdue the brilliant ebullition of generous natures. A large affusion of inferior cultivation-if we may so speak the transition manners of a more popular caste which broke in upon, and in every quarter blended with, those of one more cultivated and refined, gave a singular expression of freedom, spirit, and humour, to the compound. There was an atmosphere of spirit, invention, adventure, and unconstrained fervour, favourable in the highest degree to the growth of man's individual character. It was a time and a state of things in which nature asserted all her rights and all her powers in the formation of men. To men thus nurtured, political affairs offered a boundless supply of stimulus and field of effort. The tone of nationality, inherent in the Irish people, was additionally promoted by its small circle of action-even prejudices were maintained on the simple ground of ancestral and hereditary claim—the ties of kindred were interwoven with transmitted maxims, antipathies, and prepossessions. The sympathies of life were quick and vivacious, and he must have been a dull rhetorician who could not touch them.
To give its utmost fertility to the soil thus overcharged with the elements of produce, education bore its ample part. The University of Dublin, standing as it did, alone—the sole resource in Ireland for the higher branches of learning-performed the united offices of both English universities. As a school of divinity, classical literature, and science, not inferior to either; in the compass of her acquirements she surpassed both,—evincing the tempered discretion with which she selected the course of her prescribed studies, so as to combine the ancient and modern; preserving the solid and standard writings of antiquity, without being tainted by obsolete prejudices, or the pedantry of erudition; and seizing the real discoveries and improvements of later times, unobscured by the visionary and ephemeral additions of theory. In that time, the university was not more distinguished for the comprehensive adaptation of her system to the state of knowledge and wants of the age, than for the illustrious men whom she produced, the best and surest criterion of her excellence. Of these, many continued, as fellows, to reside within her walls, and formed that profoundly intellectual circle among whom Burke, the noblest of her sons, and the great ornament of the age, was accustomed, during his residence in Dublin, to retire to look for fit intercourse for his higher powers and nobler aspirations, when fretted by the small collisions and petty intrigues of Dublin politics. The general influence, thus produced among the middle classes, was considerable indeed, and it appears in the highly cultivated talent, and the still classical recollections of the
eminent wits and orators; who, though they are certainly not to be confused with the entire order to which they belonged, yet unquestionably must still be admitted to be just indications of the state of social cultivation, and as the higher specimens of that state of attainment which was regarded as the standard of qualification in the social circles of which they were conspicuous centres.
In the course of some years before the 19th century had far advanced, the state of literature here described had gradually disappeared. It is difficult to avoid connecting this circumstance with the Union, which undoubtedly dissolved many a brilliant circle of the Irish metropolis. But there were other causes equally obvious, though overlooked in the fury of political contention. The tone of the orator and of the public writer is caught from the general state of the public mind —and the entire intellectual cultivation will ever be pitched in unison to the great main design of all effort. The tone of Grattan, Curran, and those with whom they are to be generally classed, was academical ; there was no pervading commercial intelligence to impose the succinct and formal statements of official despatch; there was no popular mind to vulgarize or to repress that overcharged display that wins the uncultivated heart. There was a highly wrought and over-cultivated tone, to which literature contributed its full stores, and rhetoric all its studied forms. It must be granted, that it was much characterized by redundance and excess. But in these great men it was excess of light-oratory in Ireland then sat throned in state, adorned with “barbaric pearls and gold;" it was then the garb and ensign of her power. The name of “ Irish eloquence” afterwards became a term of not quite candid reproach, yet it was seemingly well justified by an after change of style. The fact demands some notice: in this, too, the principle of national transition can be traced. When the brilliant life of the last generation passed away, a vast diffusion of popular spirit began to be called forth, and at the same time to give a tone and character to the style of public speaking, by which it was excited. The parliament was succeeded by the arena of agitation, which from thenceforth never ceased. While the national prejudices and religious animosities of the people were worked upon with dexterity, talent, and eloquence, the very same process was infusing gleams of intelligence that were at some period to have a far different operation-while the people were concentrating into a party existence, they began to grow in numbers, as well as intelligence. We are here to point out the first effect on the taste and talent of Ireland. The change we have been endeavouring to explain operated disadvantageously on both. That many public speakers during this time are to be distinguished for eloquence, and for nearly all the intellectual powers which it ordinarily calls into action, will not be considerately denied. But their style had become such, as with even unusual evidence to show the characterizing tendency to win the vulgar, at the expense of every principle of good taste and sound judgment. A few eminent intellects belonging to the past or rather to that higher order of intellects, which in all times tower above the creeping influences of tendency, yet remained to contradict the national reproach. But the populace had become the hearers, and the moment brought forth its own peculiar style. Rival orators contended in the artifices of rhetoric, and the ornaments of imagination; and in their contention, forgot the subject of their discourse: the highest effort was to overlay the minutest quantum of sense with the richest patchwork of purple rags. Hours were wasted down in the elaboration of sentences which astonished the echoes of the criminal courts; and when published in the papers, were for a time the theme of general wonder: every youthful Irishman who pretended to public talent was, more or less, according to his intellectual gauge, betrayed into the cultivation of his fancy as the great element of public life. The same mass of intellect which now supplies the columns of magazines and journals, with smooth, faded commonplaces in polished verse, then sedulously cultivated a far inferior style of oratory, . which the gall of Junius can best describe, "the melancholy madness of poetry, without the inspiration.” Such an epidemic must of course have been on every side limited by the natural intelligence of the human mind. But the cause to which it has been in a chief measure attributed, was itself a result of far more permanent and extensive importance. The popular mind was awakened into intellectual existence,-a fact of which, the boundless importance has not been appreciated; because it has been in a great degree concealed, or rather disguised by incidental circumstances. Thus many will say that a vast mass of prejudice and spurious principle was propagated to lead the popular mind astray, and that the national mind was obscured by opinions more dark than mere ignorance. This may be granted for argument at least. But a more considerate attention will perceive and admit, that in the mean time the faculties were brought into an enlarged exertion; the logical faculties began to be trained; the observation roused, and certain general elements of political knowledge, taught. This will be the better understood by considering, that, in the propagation of false conclusions, the main principles used are, for the most part, the general maxims of right and truth which are universally fixed in the minds of men. It is a principle which lies deeply involved under the working of social causes, that error, for the most part, consists in the perversion and distortion of the most important elementary truths, and cannot be propagated far without carrying in its march the light by which it is to be dissipated. The darkness of the middle ages was maintained, not so much by the influence of mere error, as by an external power which arrested and bound the reason : it was not because words supplied the place of principles, but that the progress of inference from any other grounds was sin or treason. The advance of truth which makes the man free is yet not old enough in its progress to be fully understood; and it has not been yet seen that modern delusions have no rooted existence. Reasonings founded on a false basis of fact, and at the same time exposed by a train of results, will not continue to deceive those who have once learned to reason rightly, and to observe shrewdly. A just consideration of this reflection will explain, what a practical acquaintance with the Irish people will not fail to demonstrate, to the dullest observer, who observes rather with his eyes and ears, than by inveterate notions which pass without examination--that their spirit is changed, a change not to be perceived from afar; because the people are yet everywhere under the dominion of external influences, forms and conventions, from which the popular crowd can never break, till the force of circumstances set them free. The empire of delusion—while in a last contest, it seems to be repairing its broken bulwarks, and extending anew its demolished outworks--is dissolving silently from within: it is losing its hold upon opinion, even in its inmost citadel; and when the dark edifice of superstition and popular slavery shall have appeared, to those who are now contemplating its advances with dismay, to have gained once more its place of pride-the frowning battlements will have become a shadow. We have chosen thus to express our opinion in types and metaphors, rather than in more express language, because it refers to a state of facts which rather falls within the comprehension of the time in which we live, than of that on which we are about to enter in detail. Yet, having ventured so far, in suggesting the existence of a state of things so wholly out of the contemplation of those who commonly discuss the state of Ireland, we must make a few remarks on the seemingly improbable oversight thus asserted. It seems to have two causes: one, on which it is not necessary to dwell—the miserable condition of darkness, error, and poverty, which affects the wild population of some of the mountain and moorland districts of the country; in some of which the population is purely Celtic, and deeply characterized by all the seemingly irreclaimable features of that race. These districts form a seeming ground of exception to the statement which we have made. A more general fact is this; and, slight as it may seem, it has grown into a consideration of vast importance; it is the superficial character of political investigations in every shape, and on every side. Men look too much to opinions, and too little to realities: they look into reports and journals, speeches and histories, for their facts: they rely on the indications of public meetings, when men do not speak their mind, and where the passions which appear are but the contagion of the crowd,-mere physical sympathies: well instructed in physical statistics, they have no precise knowledge of moral causes. And thus it is, journal answers journal; speech answers speech; and pamphlet answers pamphlet; while few turn a heedful glance upon the working of moral and intellectual principles, the ultimate and irresistible forces of the social world, -as incessant and surrounding as the unseen influence by which the tides observe their stated times. The politician, deeply absorbed in his engrossing game, is to a very considerable extent involved in misrepresentations;-he sets too much value on expedients, and on the peculiar machinery which he holds in his grasp, and has too little reliance on the law of nature, and the power of God.
The same considerations are in a high degree connected with other facts on which we shall not enter at large. It will be enough to say, that the peculiar tendencies, affecting the political sentiments of the Irish peasantry, have not hitherto been identical with the democratic spirit which has been so much noticed as belonging to other countries. A growing advance in the condition of the people-in manners and comforts-has contributed to spread among them a spirit of independence ; than which nothing is so likely to emancipate them from the false and servile influences out of which most of their errors and misfortunes have arisen. No man of sound understanding, and in pos
session of the necessaries and comforts of life, will ever desire to see popular disturbances.
To conclude; as it cannot fail to be observed, that in the statement here offered to our readers, we have broken off at those points, where the practical facts and applications might be expected to follow, we must again point out the peculiarity of our designs, which was to present a rough and summary outline of the characteristic condition of the period on which we are now to enter. It was characteristically a period replete with the elements and workings of a great revolution, the development of which belongs to a further period. A revolution, not effected either by democratic strivings—as has falsely been supposed -or by the expertness of party leaders, or the measures of administrations; but by causes wholly antecedent, of which they are but effects. In adverting to results, we have been reserved; for they are not within our present scope; in the statement of principles we have endeavoured to be as distinct as a necessary economy of space would allow; because the language which we have been forced for clearness to use is preoccupied by all sorts of prejudice.
I. POLITICAL SERIES.
BORN A.D. 1705.—DIED A.D. 1757.
This illustrious soldier was the son of “an expatriated Irish officer; he entered the Austrian service, and, by his great skill and bravery when employed against the Turks, rose to the rank of field-marshal. He afterwards greatly distinguished himself at Placentia, and other places in Italy; and at length died of the wounds he had received at the battle of Prague."*
The divisions which we have chosen to observe in the order of these memoirs, are now to be connected in the lives of a few distinguished persons who, having attained public notice in the termination of one period, have lived also within the beginning of that which follows. Such memoirs, belonging to two periods, may be disposed so as best to favour the historical purpose to which our biography is but secondary. Lucas—whose professional character, had it particularly demanded any commemoration would properly be placed in our literary division-is here to be noticed on account of his political celebrity; and he is chiefly selected here for the occasion which the principal inci
* Maunder's Biographical Treasury.